The night I move in, I sit in my darkened kitchen and sip wine next to the open window. I watch as the cops pull up beside a black teenager who is walking on the sidewalk across the street. They say something to him, get out of their squad car, and pat him down. One of the cops glances up, sees me peering out. After a few minutes, they pull away and the lanky teenager is ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: NASA

The Storm and the Beast

The morning before the typhoon hit, I sat down for a Skype date with my parents: my morning coffee and their evening wine, the usual football and grandchildren updates punctuated by the cut-outs of the faltering wifi connection. Until my dad said he had something to tell me: for the first time, he was struggling with depression. Or anxiety. He wasn’t sure, really. No ... [Continue Reading]

Photo by keightdee

A Return to Limantour

The sublet in Berkeley was our last resort. My father and I had been kicked out of the bottom floor of a house in Sausalito for breaking the unstable leaseholder’s plate, and we had traipsed the cold streets of San Francisco for days, looking for an affordable place. That futile mission had ultimately landed us here, just off of Telegraph Avenue, at the threshold of an ... [Continue Reading]

Photo by Luca Setti

A Story About Hanoi

This is a story about moving to Hanoi. This is not a story about moving to Hanoi as an American. This is not a story about eating phở cuốnby the lake where John McCain was shot down. This is not about learning to call the Vietnam War the American War. This is a story about moving to Hanoi, but this is not a story about moving to the capital of a communist country. ... [Continue Reading]


Writers Respond to Typhoon Haiyan

On ordinary days, this is a magazine of creative nonfiction, inspired by travel, written by women--by which we mean that Vela publishes writing that endeavors to express what is real in a manner that is both curious and connection-seeking, and we do so in the spirit of solidarity. And when but in the wake of faraway disaster does such work matter most? As everyone knows, ... [Continue Reading]

man-o-war photo

An Unwanted Guest

I didn’t see the jellyfish, but I felt it—a searing pain at my ankle that shot up through my leg, bringing me, in a matter of seconds, to my knees in the sand. I looked down and saw its limp, blue body floating away from me down the rivulet I’d stumbled into when the sand along its border collapsed under my step. The creature had gripped me with its tentacles for ... [Continue Reading]



My grandfather lives among the trees. He is streaked with dirt, brown as a fallen acorn. When he walks, the leaves bend under his feet. Years ago, he kept caged pigeons in his garden. In the morning, he would jangle their cage to announce himself. The garden is his domain, and everything in it his subjects. Out there, we know not to tangle or disturb. We are visitors. ... [Continue Reading]


The View from the Sitting Room

  One morning, the women in the Kabul house awoke with a particular sense of purpose. After the dawn prayer, when Nazo would usually roll back into bed and sleep in as long as she could, Nafisa nudged her sister-in-law and marched her toward the kitchen. As foreigners and guests of the family, my two American colleagues and I were exempt from early risings, but I ... [Continue Reading]

Beijing, China


In the middle of the shoving crowd between the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, my two Chinese students stopped in hushed awe. In those first moments, I studied their faces. I looked at them more than I looked at the walls that stretched before us to our left, more than the expanse to our right of one of the largest public squares in the world. I looked at their faces, ... [Continue Reading]

Grandma train

A Personal Geography of Fear

China, 2007 The KFC outside Beijing West Train Station. People sleeping arms akimbo on tables in the crush. Migrant boys' hipster haircuts sprawled like slaughtered hedgehogs atop the white plastic. The round faces of puffy-jacketed rural girls, soft and inscrutable in dreams. Normally, the capacity of Beijingers to sleep amidst swirling masses of humanity would be ... [Continue Reading]